Antisemitism at highest level since WWII, conference hears

February 17, 2009

Antisemitism has reached levels unparalled since the end of the Second World War, a London conference heard on Tuesday.

Synagogues have been burnt, threatening graffiti daubed on buildings, verbal threats shouted across the street and hate emails sent, the 100 policymakers from nearly 40 countries attending the first London Conference for Combating Antisemitism were told.

The rise in antisemitism has been a feature of the past 35 years, Irwin Cotler, once counsel to Nelson Mandela and the former Canadian minster of justice and attorney general, told delegates. 

But it is now a “new sophisticated, globalising, virulent and even lethal antisemitism, reminiscent of the atmospherics of the 30s, and without parallel or precedent since the end of the Second World War”, Cotler said.

Earlier this year, frigures from the Community Security Trust, a charity working to protect Jews in the UK, recorded 541 antisemitic incidents in Britain in 2008, the third highest annual total since it began recording incidents in 1984.

In Germany, a Jewish cemetary is desecrated once a week on average, Petra Pau, vice-president of the Bundestag said.

Natan Sharansky, former deputy prime minister of Israel, said the situation in Europe had become worse during the past couple of years, especially the past year.

Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism in Canada, described how he had walked through the building where Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg and his wife Rivkah were tortured and slaughtered during the Mumbai attacks last year.

“As I later looked out on Mumbai…I marvelled to think that in this huge, teeming city of 20 million the killers had meticulously, deliberately sought out to target this one rather obscure, peaceful place, and this particular man and his family,” he said.

“Why did they do so? Because and only because they were Jews, and as such because they represented all the Jews.”

Antisemitic incidents have also been on the rise in Canada, up 11 percent in 2007 on the previous year, reflecting a doubling of the numbers reported during the past five years.

Cotler said there was a new antisemitism which overlapped the classical antisemitism, but was distinguishable from it.

While the goal of the old antisemitism was to rid the world of Jews, now it was to rid the world of the state of Israel, he said.

This genocidal antisemitism is practised on different levels including the state-sanctioned and state orchestrated level, terrorist movement level, and from the mosques and the media.

Last December’s incursion by Israeli forces into Gaza has seen a spike in attacks, the delegates, which included Jews and non-Jews, heard.

The Community Security Trust was reported as saying 250 antisemitic incidents in the four weeks after the military operation began compared with 27 incidents during the same period last year.

Pau said she was deeply concerned that some people who took part in peace demonstrations used antisemitic language while trying to promote the interests of the Palestinians.

“What is totally unacceptable is that Israeli policy is compared with Nazi policy,” she said through an interpreter.

While Israel is not above the law and must be held accountable for any violations of international law or human rights, people must differentiate between the politics of Israel and antisemitism, the conference heard.

Screening virulent anti-semitic messages on the Internet was one of the ways governments could attempt to stifle the rise, the delegates agreed in a joint declaration. 

“The Internet, the globalisation of the media, a resurgence of the extreme right and an anti-Zionist hard left have combined to create a febrile environment, in which the spread of old and new anti-semitic theories and attitudes have been able to gain traction with alarming ease,” John Mann, a British policymaker and chair of the conference said.

Better education was another tool, especially in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive as the number of survivors dwindles.

This is made more difficult in multi-cultural societies where children from different ethnic backgrounds ask “What has the Holocaust got to do with me?”

We must also not forget the growing number of victims of Islamophobia, said Andre Azoulay, a Jew who is counsellor to King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

“For me, the Israel-Palestinian issue is politic, antisemitism is ethic,” he said.

“I cannot just open my eyes to see that there is antisemitism and close my eyes where there is Islamophobia.”


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Interesting that Nelson Mandela’s counsel has come out against antisemitism. It’s worth remembering that when South Africa was an apartheid State and Mandela was imprisoned it was only a Jew, the late Helen Suzman who opposed apartheid in the South African parliament. But when Mandela was released from imprisonment and became P.M. he immediately sided with the Arabs States against Israel.

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[…] in Europe has been noted in various quarters. It’s odd how none of those making that observation connected that to either the […]

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Signs you might be anti-sematic1. You think that Jewish people control the media.2. You believe that Israel should not exist.3. You feel that Israel defending itself against Grad rockets is unacceptable.4. You believe Gaza is occupied, even though not a single Israeli soldier is in the region.5. You equate Gaza to the Nazi holocaust.6. You deny the Nazi holocaust happened.7. You believe both 5. and 6. at the same time.8. You believe in the one state solution, because it will end Israel’s existance.9. You believe the Big Lie.10.When you think of Israel, you think of the term “Zionist Aggressor”.

Posted by Anon. | Report as abusive

Palestinians are semetic people who have been brutalized for 61+ years by an evil and chauvinistic ideology that denies their very existence … standing up to the racist impulses of zionism is not anti-semetic. zionists are racists- the rise of these horrible attacks in europe is an indirect result of the criminal actions of Israel and people feeling powerless to stop them. hold israel accountable for its war crimes.

Posted by prohuman | Report as abusive

It is so important to be aware that Antisemitism is increasing in Venezuela too, population is being attack.But because it is a minority, is not so known.The WWII situation must not be repeated.I hope we can be aware on time and not so late.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

I am so disturbe to see the increasinfg of Antisemitism in the world, In Venezuela, too. It is sad, to start seeing the same igns and actions done in the pre WWII.Hope we all be aware of that, so it not be late.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

How sad, we can’t get along. Hopefully this is just people with extreme views and feelings.Is it polically correct to be anti-sematic? Seems so, because the media isn’t reporting on this issue very much. Why?

Posted by buffalojump | Report as abusive

I wonder what a decent appointed Judge would do to solve a neighbour’s dispute. Without the layers of the U.N. and weak democracy. Imbedded bigotry does not only exist in Iran etc,but in some quarters of the Western World. Festering for 50 years or more.Are you not ashamed that in 2009 the results of the 1950C still raise a problem today?

Posted by D.Porter | Report as abusive

Ani-Semitism and other kinds of discrimination is highly reprehensible and abhorrent. However, one must set the parameters, and determine and lay down the elements when will one be considered as anti-semetic. We cannot afford to have a broad definition of such term such that freedom of expression is undermined like what happened to Bishop Williamson.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

i am astounded that anybody should be amazed at the rise in antisemitism.i mean isreal enters gaza and slaughters 1400 hundred people and destroys thousands of homes and this conference is worrying about the growing anger by ordinary joe bloggs about the seemingly couldnt care less attitude by most governments around the world.what a crazy crazy world we live in.

Posted by ken | Report as abusive

May I refer everyone to Howard Jacobson’s brilliant article on the new Anti-semitism in yesterday’s Independent. Particularly its chilling conclusion about anti-Jewish consciousness seeping into mainstream thinking through language and the clever repackaging of ancient Jew-hating stereotypes. Artists and writers of the left now are performing the same role of those on the right in the 30s to de-sensitize the world to antiJewish language and thought. For T.S.Elliot read Carryl Churchill.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

Do not confuse legitime defense with the Hamas’s treatment to their own people, using thir religion, basical needs, coercion of the vulnerable and dependent because Hamas points of view, etc, etc, in resume do not confuse terrorists tactics, and abuse situation of Gaza with the global situation of INCREASING ANTISEMITISM.Do not manipulate diferent realities that include People suffering abuse .

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive